My association with the Harrow Club started almost sixty years ago when I was ten years old and lasted for over forty years. I lived in Calverley Street and joined the club in 1958 following in the footsteps of my two older brothers Roy and Ray.
The club at that time was for boys only and was managed by the legendary Lew Ashman who many will remember. Lew had joined the club in 1953 and was assisted by Dick Kelly (the subs man) Jacko Poplett, Mike Cappochi, Johnny Green and many others whose names elude me at this time. In addition there were many old Harrovians : Sir Lawrence Verney, Eric Cross (Hubbly Bubbly) Hugo Trotter DFC, Dudley Saville and many more who gave up their time freely to ensure the smooth running of the club. They were all great benefactors !
The club was basically divided into three sections the minors being from 11 to 14 years of age the juniors was 14 to 16 and the seniors was 16 to 19. There was also an old guard. We paid a nominal sum each week as a sort of membership fee. The club’s entrance in those days was in Bard Road at the rear of the existing building and comprised a ground floor area, a basement area and a half landing room where the canoes were built.
On the ground floor we had three table tennis tables, a snooker table lovingly cared for by Gus Harding, a billiard table and two dart boards. There was also draughts, chess, Lexington and a large collection of National Geographic magazines.
In the basement we had the Gym, a Shower Room and the Canteen where Mrs Pithers dispensed beverages, sweets and her famous bacon rolls. Many will remember the padded pole in the centre of the Gym, the wood block flooring and the wall bars.
Lew was very sports minded as well as academically inclined and you were expected and encouraged to participate in various sporting activities such as Football, Cricket, Swimming, Canoeing, Boxing, Table Tennis and Snooker. There were also week ends away and visits to Harrow School. For those less sports minded there were Draughts, Chess, Lexington, Reading and I believe Debating.
For us minors the club was open Mondays,Wednesdays and Fridays and at week ends if playing Cricket or Football. We were extremely lucky in having Albert Smith an ex QPR player and a lovely man as our football and cricket coach.
As well as the club in Bard Road we were fortunate in having our own sport’s ground in North Wembley where Albert was the groundsman and his dear wife Pat operated the canteen. In the summer months we would go to the grounds for cricket coaching and it was like going to the country and in sharp contrast to where most of us lived.
Sport was a very important part of the clubs activities and as well as internal competitions each year.
The London Federation of Boys Clubs organised many sporting events at which the club boys excelled in winning countless cups and trophies. No matter what sport or activity the club could put together a very strong team. The club also did well in quizzes and I remember a poetry competition being won as well.
The club had many fine sportsman many of whom were chosen to represent the London Federation. It should also be mentioned that two boys, David Sanders and Alan Wilkinson became the first in the country to obtain the Duke of Edinburgh’s gold award for canoeing.
A highlight of the year was the annual week end away at Woodrow High house in Amersham which was a joint affair with boys from Harrow School. The teams were equally divided and the idea was for the boys to get to know each other and break down any barriers which may have existed in a sporting and competitive fashion. If at the start of the week end there was some apprehension amongst the boys by the end all had been forgotten and strong links were forged which was the intention. The week end was all about team work and I can’t remember a time when it did not work.
Perhaps the main highlight of the year was the Isle of Wight camp held for two weeks at Whitecliff Bay. I was twelve when I first went there and it was terrific. To get to the island was an adventure in any event. Meeting at the club we travelled from Latimer Road station arriving at Victoria for the train to Portsmouth, then the ferry to Ryde followed by the steam train to Brading where a fleet of vehicles was waiting to take us on to camp. We were all excited and I can well remember the fun and games on the trains and ferry. We slept in either a bell tent or ridge tent, 6 or 8 to each tent You were expected to keep it neat and tidy, blankets folded etc. There was a tent inspection each day and at the end of the week prizes were given to the tidiest tent and individual.
Some will no doubt remember the initiation ceremony involving a tub of cherry blossom and a wire brush.
They were really happy days site-seeing, swimming, sun bathing, crazy golf, quoits competition, bingo and of course – ‘shopping’ . Mrs Pithers, her husband Reg Lew, along with the staff and volunteers already mentioned worked wonders to ensure we had a great time and we did.
Another adventure for the older boys of the club was a trip to either France or Spain. In my case it was Spain. We travelled through France sleeping at the side of the road eventually reaching Sitges where we had to lift Lew from the drivers seat. It was my first time abroad and again it was a wonderful experience. Hugo Trotter drove us back through the Pyrenees on to Paris and then to the Eiffel Tower. I still carry the scars from that particular adventure.
They were indeed wonderful times and I am eternally grateful to Lew Ashman, the staff and Harrow School for providing me and my peers the opportunities that we would not otherwise have had. I made some great friends that I still see to this day.
The Harrow Club was such an important part of my life and having got so much from being a member I wanted to put something back so I carried on for many years as a voluntary worker.
Any thoughts from anyone connected with the club would be most welcome.
This is one of two postings on the Harrow Club. The second is written by Brian Iles.